- Like-for-like sales growth is the top priority
- Stronger focus within operating business and more efficient administrative structures
- Outlook for 2012 confirmed: sales growth expected, earnings roughly at prior-year level
- Stable dividend of € 1.35 per common share for the year 2011 and change of financial year starting from 2013 proposed
- Supervisory Board elections
At its Annual General Meeting held today, METRO GROUP reiterated the company's strategic realignment for the coming years. Top priority was accorded to increasing like-for-like sales. "We will continue to significantly invest into measures that benefit our customers and positively differentiate us from our competitors", said Olaf Koch, Chairman of the Management Board of METRO AG. This included more attractive assortments, more extended customer advice and services as well as selective investments into prices. "At the same time, we will continue working on our efficiency, especially with a view to our administrative structures, and strengthen our focus on operational business", said Koch. The shareholders are to receive an unchanged dividend of € 1.35 per common share for financial year 2011.
Despite a distinctly challenging general economic environment, METRO GROUP overall managed to stand its ground well in the financial year 2011 just ended. Group sales dropped slightly by 0.8% to € 66.7 billion. EBIT before special items reached € 2.37 billion (-1.8%), which was in line with expectations. "2011 was not an easy year for METRO GROUP", stressed Koch. "Even though the macroeconomic conditions deteriorated in many European countries, we managed to maintain group sales and EBIT before special items almost at the high year-earlier level". This is why the shareholders are to receive an unchanged dividend of € 1.35 per share of common stock. The proposed dividend per preferred share is € 1.485.
In the first quarter 2012 by contrast, METRO GROUP recorded a distinct plus in sales in the scope of 2.2% and three out of four of its sales divisions also reported a like-for-like sales growth. "Our measures to raise like-for-like sales are already starting to show the desired effects in many areas", said Koch. This positive trend so far also continues in the second quarter. In addition, the company is working on strengthening its focus within the operating business and on creating more efficient administrative structures, especially at the Group headquarters in Düsseldorf and the associated headquarters. Based on these measures METRO GROUP continues to expect a year-on-year rise in sales for 2012 as well as EBIT before special items roughly at the year-earlier level (2011: € 2,372 million).
Furthermore, the financial year of METRO GROUP, which presently coincides with the calendar year, is to be changed. The Management Board and the Supervisory Board propose to the Annual General Meeting to adopt a new financial year running from 1 October to 30 September effective from 2013. Consequently, this would result in a one-time short financial year for the period from 1 January 2013 to 30 September 2013. With this change, the important Christmas business is to be segregated from impacts resulting from closing date inventory counts or planning activities for the upcoming financial year. Moreover, the aim of this change is to achieve a better planning quality for the full year already from the first quarter.
Other items on the Agenda of the Annual General Meeting are the re-election of the incumbent Chairman of the Supervisory Board, Franz Markus Haniel, to the Supervisory Board of METRO AG and the election of Dr. Florian Funck, Member of the Management Board of Franz Haniel & Cie. GmbH, as a member of the Supervisory Board of METRO AG. In this function, he is to follow Dr.-Ing. e.h. Bernd Pischetsrieder, who stepped down from his position on the Supervisory Board one year ahead of the end of his regular term of office in order to allow for an organised rejuvenation of the Board. "We thank Dr. Pischetsrieder for this initiative and for his many years of dedicated work for the company's success", said Haniel. "With his strategic vision and his vast experience, Dr. Pischetsrieder has always been an important and reliable advisor who always focused on the success of the company, especially also in challenging times". Pischetsrieder has been a member of the Supervisory Board of METRO AG since 1998.